Virgin Galactic launches 2 pilots, 4 passengers to the edge of space and back | Space

Two pilots, a Turkish research astronaut and three private citizens rocketed to space and back Saturday aboard Virgin Galactic‘s Unity spaceplane, enjoying spectacular views of Earth and about three minutes of weightlessness before gliding back to touchdown in New Mexico.

It was the company’s 12th piloted up-and-down sub-orbital flight, its seventh with paying customers aboard and the final flight of Unity as Virgin develops its more capable Delta spaceplanes, expected to begin commercial operations in 2026.

Virgin Galactic’s Unity rocket plane races out of the lower atmosphere, carrying two pilots and four passengers, including Turkey’s second professional astronaut, to the edge of space in the company’s seventh commercial spaceflight. Image Virgin Galactic.

With veteran pilot Nicola Pecile and rookie Jameel Janjua at the controls, Unity was carried aloft from New Mexico’s Spaceport America by Virgin Galactic’s twin-fuselage ferry ship, Eve, taking off at 10:31 a.m. EDT.

Following Virgin’s standard flight plan, the carrier jet released the spaceplane an hour later at an altitude of 44,500 feet. Pecile and Janjua then ignited the ship’s hybrid rocket motor to begin a supersonic climb out of the dense lower atmosphere.

Minutes later,…


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